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Bowling Alone Book Review


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Book Review

Book Review
In the article, Bowling alone, Putnam examines the culture of the modern Americans and the good life that has been eroded off the society. He points out that America has a nostalgic feeling which the people of America have not understood the context. The feeling is one that a person feels that there is something wrong within the American society. One yearns to go back to the ancient times when people care for themselves and others, where there was no crime and everyone was happy. He argues out that, such issues are important in the transformation of the modern society to one that is socially, economically moralistically and politically at peace with the people’s intrinsic perception of a collective utopia. Putman points out that the current trends in the social capital and civic engagement have been wiped out to a critical level. He explains that the modern society has become a cesspool of crime, immorality, inequality and utmost poverty among the American people. He goes further to relate the deviation of the social capital to the earlier mentioned ill activities in the society, while he associates the social capital increase to the some positive aspects like economic prosperity, education, democracy, children welfare, productive neighborhoods, safe welfare, proper healthcare and happiness to the people. The evidence that Putman mounts is unquestionable with regards to correlation, and he cautions that even mere correlation cannot be substituted for causation just automatically. In addition, the author of the book goes to the extent of discrediting all the existing critical objections that are based on the specific correlations that lead to causation. From the article, it is evident that commuting, sprawl and suburbanization contribute to the increasing time restraints through commuting for longer distances to work and to a friend.
Putman accuses the television and other electronic entertainment to have resulted to the rise in social capital erosion. He accuses the television of causing the society to become a society of watchers rather than being a society of doers. He addresses the psychological impasse of watching television whereby the person who is watching attaches him or herself to the characters of the show. The person is converted to be part of the character persona hence he or she substitutes the real world that has people with the television characters who are definitely fake. This culture has a great effect on the decrease of social capital through the less engagement. According to the article, generational change only accounts to about 50% of the social capital decline and from this estimate, the television accounts for 205% of the 50%. The other issues that account for the remaining percentage are not highlighted directly since one cannot figure out whether it is caused by the advancing technology or the level of intelligence in the modern society.
From the Article, the author tries to address the difference between offering theory to the existing academic peers that concentrate on what is the main cause of the phenomenon versus the public, which will be waiting to get the solution to the problem. The author provides some solutions to the problem surrounding the American society; however, he looks optimistic about the approaching realization to this kind of society. He advocates for the society to recognize and accept that there is a problem and try to understand it fully with its implications that can be brought by it. These issues bring some cause of concern and America as a nation must increase civic education to the children concerning civics and ensure it includes both application and theory. Involving the young children in the extracurricular activities will also increase social engagement among them. From an individual perspective, these solutions seem achievable and much reasonable even if they cannot be fully implemented in the society.
On the other hand, Putnam is seen to insist on the issue of a more family friendly workplace, which allows room for social growth of the workers through the application of diversity and acting as a bridge between race and ethnicity. He advocates for people to spend more time in their local areas and enjoy the pleasures rather than spending more time in travelling to distance recreational centers. He points out that the internet is to be used in increasing the one on one interaction rather than substituting for it. He advocates for the elimination of the digital divide and allow equal access to each individual without basing on the race, ethnicity, social status or the sex. The author puts more emphasis on the increasing political involvement since it is a vital system of reversing the trend of the decreasing social capital. Putnam argues out that the campaign reforms should base on building social capital and financial capital. From an individual point of view, this point will create grassroots movement, which will make this look like a mini revolution.
One might find it easy to dismiss Mario Small claims since what he talks about seems to be much familiar. His thesis lies on the concept that the larger the social circle a person has, the more he or she gathers resources from others. This concept is similar to Putnam’s theory, which he believes that the network of people helps one to access more resources. The increase use of phones and the long distance calls has less impact on the social connection (Small, 2009). Putnam does not believe that using phones can enable one to make friends; however, one can use it in maintaining friendship. Both authors advocate for the network ties between people and the go as far as pointing out that people are best if they meet face to face and talk to each other. This creates a bond between people compared to when people talk on the fane and on the social media.
Similar to Mario Luis Small, Putnam provides some detailed analysis regarding correlation between the decreasing social capital, the decreasing public trust and other socio-economic factors that are depicted in the book (Small, 2009). However, Putnam’s work does not possess any empirical analysis of the explanation. From Putnam’s examples, one can point out that even if the Americans have grown up being weary of the neighborhoods and their neighbors, they all have utilized their times in a different manner. Small in the Unanticipated Gains, uses the social surveys in conveying the advantages of social capital. He goes further to point out why the associations are still in occurrence and explains the specific consequences of the associations (Small, 2009). As the book winds up, the author tries to argue out that joining of the childcare center’s does not cause any impact on the chances of parents going through non-clinical depression, but making more friends in those areas does decrease the risks.
Putman includes the revolution of civil rights and the growth of the welfare state as some of the factors that promoted the decline in the social capital in America. Most of these causes of decreasing social capital are associated with the reduction of the social inequity in the health. At some point, the author argues out that the World War II generation has different behavioral values compared to the modern generation. He views this generation as one that is civic both in terms of participation and in terms of association. This comparison gives a psychological explanation just as the inequality psychology hypothesis, which has been pointed out as a determinant of the decreased levels of social cohesion. According to Putnam, the decline in the social capital has brought so many negative effects on the education, democracy, security and the economic development in America. He considers health as an input to social capital.
Bowling alone points out that technological change coincides with the interval of the declining club membership. Putnam mention that higher levels of certain social activities indirectly and inevitably they lead to some good outcomes. Since Putnam has stated that social capital is declining and this may cause major consequences, he definitely presents to the nation, some call of action. A decision to reestablish the issue of social capital requires a keen consideration of where this issue of social capital originates. In the book, Putnam is seen to be switching between two different views, which are opposite. There is an idea of civic involvement, which is seen as deeply ingrained. On the other hand, the environmental factors are seen to the cause of social capital. On the other hand Small focuses on the aspect of individual social capital which is shaped by the organization in which one is involved (Small, 2009).
The interplay between connections to the institutions and to the individuals is centralized within the publication that is widely split into two sectors around these roles. Just as Mario Small explains, institutions that are doing more to create a connection between the parents will provide greater rewards to those individuals through formalization of interactions and generating kinship and mutual trust between them. Institutions provide the best grounds for the information providers, educators and the advertisers to reach the target population. The two authors propose an approach in which people will understand social capital that combines a mixture of statistical analysis and interviewing the subjects. In his book, small argues out that the breaking of organizational ties mostly arise from the bureaucratic aspect of the contemporary society where the exchange of resources and goods is the main activity that businesses, nonprofit organizations and the business agencies do.
From the book, it is evident that the ultimate crime is America’s diminished social engagement substantially creates an impact on the creation of social capital. One is able to point out the meaning of social capital from the reading (Social Capital- this is the “glue” or anything that binds people together thus promoting smooth interaction and regular contact with other people). From Mario Small’s perspective, social engagement, make people to think and act on matters in a collective manner thus boosting the quality of living in any country, including America (Small, 2009). From an individual perspective, the book, Unanticipated Gains, contains a powerful thesis with some rudimentary statistical analysis and a good extensive data. This is such a great work done by Putnam since it touches on the issues of sociology, economics, political science and psychology.

Small, M. L. (2009). Unanticipated gains: Origins of network inequality in everyday life. New York: Oxford University Press.

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